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Bomb shelter , cesspool/septic tank or buried propane tank ?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by oldgrezmonke, Feb 8, 2009.

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  1. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    We are looking at an 60-70 year old rural house that we might buy . Out in the back yard is a good sized metal tube [@18-24" dia.] sticking straight up about a foot with a slightly rusted through lid that is equipped to be padlocked . I have not yet looked into this thing . I don't think it's a bomb shelter as there should be vents some where near and the tube doesn't look big enough to climb down . There are two things I think it might be : an old cesspool [maybe a septic tank ?] or an old buried propane tank . I know what I would see if it is a propane tank . If it is a cesspool or septic tank , I presume I would see and probably smell [yes , I know to let it ventilate before looking inside] human waste-does anyone know if there is any visual difference likely between the two that would be visible from such an access point ? I will be contacting the real estate agent before/if we decide to take another look but I want to be prepared to try to figure it out myself if need be . Sorry , I don't have any pictures . I have searched the internet and cannot find anything that looks like this . Thanks for any ideas .

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  2. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    Could be a dry well.
    Sounds like a flashlite and bolt cutters are your best bet. Close it back up with a bolt and lock nut.
  3. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    Flashlight-definitely , bolt cutters-no need , it has a hasp for a padlock but no padlock , just a really old tire [think model A Ford] and a large rock on top . A dry well would be better than two of the possibilities . Have you seen something like this that was a dry well ?
  4. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    There is a few farms around here that have them for irrigation purposes. Could be a mine vent also.
  5. bsruther

    bsruther Minister of Fire

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    That's where they keep the bodies.
  6. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    First, I'd be extremely careful if you actually intend to enter the space. There are gasses that are odorless, colorless, etc and heavier than air...methane, CO2, etc. You could go in, pass out and never come back up. Worst part is if someone comes to your rescue, they could suffer the same fate. Probably not a bad idea to have someone standing by and instruct them not to come in after you but to get additional help. Anyway...

    I don't think you'd actually be able to crawl into a propane tank. Those are pressure vessels so there isn't likely to be a hatch that a man could get through. Propane tank would also have hemispherical ends - again due to the pressure, while any type of septic tank or other storage tank, I suspect, would have simple flat ends. It could also be an old cistern...possibly with ties to the house gutters for fresh water storage. Those are pretty common on older houses (and newer 'green' buildings ironically)
  7. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    I have no intent to enter the space as I am aware of the asphyxiation risk-just open the lid , wait a few moments for any noxious gases to dissipate , take a deep breath , then peep in to get an idea . If it should be a buried propane tank , there would be valves and plumbing inside . This thing is too far from the house to be a cistern .
  8. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    I do not have access to a camcorder . Perhaps I could borrow my son's cellphone which has a camera . Drop a rock or two first to see if it goes "plop" or "clink" is a good idea , too . I could do either or both of those without my face over the opening .
  9. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Ask the owner? We have disclosure laws in NY.

    I agree with Woodford. Probably just a pile of bones down there. I'd lock it, especially at night! :ahhh:
  10. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    The owner is deceased .
  11. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Well you sure got me curious. Any vent pipes could have been knocked over, rusted out, or who knows what. Maybe it was the old guys money vault! Maybe an escape tunnel from the hospital or jail next door. A mine would be cool to.
    I'd be in there in a heart beat!
    My guess, a well.
    good luck on your property search-ken
  12. sleepie

    sleepie New Member

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    if the rock come back out ----RUN!!!!
  13. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    If it is a bomb shelter, you might hit somebody on the head. owwwwwwwww!!!

    Jay
  14. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    Nearest hospital 35 miles , nearest jail 25 miles , little or no mining in this area . There are two visible wells-one with an old above ground pump in a well house and the other is a very old dug well , complete with rope , pulley and bucket , accessible from an enclosed porch . If it was a vault there must not be anything in it as it is held closed with a very old tire and a rock . Maybe I should look for holes in the ground that could be vent pipes . Or maybe I'll find Jimmy Hoffa .
    And if the rock comes back out-I will be the NEW world's fastest man .
  15. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    Nah, he's still buried under Giant Statium in NJ...

    Jay
  16. DAKSY

    DAKSY Patriot Guard Staff Member

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    Take a look at a town or county tax map, or the property survey.
    Whatever that feature is, it oughta be on there...
  17. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    If a good flashlight cant' see the bottom then it is a well. If it has valves it is gas. If you can see the bottom and it has no smell then it is likely a cistern, if the tank stinks then it could be an abandoned septic tank. Very unlikely to be any sort of structure intended for human entry like shelter.

    Any tank can be safely abandoned with a truck of sand or smashed in and backfilled. So while it is fun to guess the tank, it doesn't matter. That is, unless it smells of petroleum.
  18. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    Records like that are skimpy around here , especially on old properties .
  19. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    Very common in my area of New York. It can be an old cess pool that got a new cement cover with access door installed, or a later septic tank with the same sort of access door. Top is usually buried a foot or so below ground - so you have to stick an extension of some sort that comes above ground. This way, if the tank needs to be pumped mid winter, you can get to the access door without digging through frozen ground. Just helps a guy set one up last month with an old cess pool that was originally covered with rail-road ties. I installed a HD concrete lid with 24" access door with two feet of culvert pipe to come out of the ground. Homemade extensions can be anything and old culvert pipe stuck on end is popluar. New septic tanks can be bought with factory made extensions.
  20. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    The sand idea might be useful since I'm worried about it collapsing sometime in the future . I never thought of a fuel tank , could be as this was part of a farm once . I guess I really need to get that real estate agent to see what he can find out . If that thing is too much of a headache I either might forget this place or really lowball the offering price .
  21. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    Could be a (semi-) artesian well. Room for a pump head.
    My well is 10 fet deep bt 10 feet by 10 feet wide. Room for a hundred gallontank and pump.

    Could be a lift pump for sewer, too if the sewer is above you up the street.

    Should be a plot plan record if the property has been sold recently.
  22. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    If it is a fuel tank, you could spend zillions and have to deal with the EPA. Dunno.
  23. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Ken - get it right....its Ka-zillions.
  24. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Many states have funds to help pay for this sort of thing. In VA, the cost to the landowner is limited to a max of $500 and most pay nothing. I worked in the environmental field for 10 years and ran across these sorts of things all the times during Environmental Site Assessments.

    Curious that its locked. That would imply its valuable or possibly dangerous to me. I'd guess its a cistern, well, shelter, or some such. Seems too big for a propane tank access.

    Hurry up and bust that thing open, I'm dying to know what it is!
  25. oldgrezmonke

    oldgrezmonke New Member

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    I have contacted the real estate agent to see if he can contact close relatives who might have knowledge of the place or find some record that includes this thing . Of course , I had already asked what it might be and the agent had no idea . I do not want to simply yank it open . I want to be sure of due care before opening the object , with a witness , that I had no intent of damaging anything that was not already damaged . I will let you all know what I find out .
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